THREE FORKS — Summer’s coming, and for some, it could mean freedom from school or maybe even work. But for nature, the warmer temperatures could mean a bad fire season.
The wildfire sparked earlier this week near Willow Creek and Three Forks might be a preview of this summer's season.
“There were four helicopters," said Dave Hamilton, county assistance team incident commander. "They had an air attack ordered, and they had two heavy air tanks ordered.”
All to fight the Willow Creek Fire, which started Wednesday night. As of Friday, the fire was 10 percent contained and burned 350 acres of land. Earlier reports had the fire burning 500 acres, but a more accurate number was released today due to better mapping, fire officials said.
“This really does show that we are all really working together and working together successfully to do what we need to do just to put out fires and protect Montana’s natural resources,” said DNRC Director Amanda Kaster.
Officials gave a briefing update on what the different agencies have done to make progress, but Gov. Greg Gianforte also wanted to make sure Montanans are well aware of their part.
“We’ve had 627 fires already since Jan. 1, so I’m just asking all Montanans for the safety of our community, and the safety of our firefighters please be careful," Gianforte said.
And it’s a great reminder because this fire could have been prevented.
“This was a man-made fire," Gianforte said. "Eighty percent of the fires that we see are man-made, and we can be more careful when we’re out there.”
Gianforte visited the site where the fire burned and although hundreds of acres burned, he was impressed with efforts from everyone.
"You were dealing with nearly impossible situations with those winds,” Gianforte said.
As far as the specific cause of the fire, an investigation will take place to see exactly what happened: if it was a controlled burn with permits or if it was due to carelessness. Then investigators will go from there to decide the consequences.
There have been zero injuries and no buildings burned because of this fire, but the warning remains the same.